By on October 21, 2020

Politics have corrupted just about everything under the sun over the last few years. Practically everything is political in 2020 and if you have an opinion about that, it had better be the correct one and sanctioned by your preferred party. After all, having an approved take is far more important that an accurate one. But what of the automotive industry? Where do the carmakers fall on the supposedly important spectrum?

Well, we know that the UAW predictably endorsed Joe Biden for president way back in spring. But those heading the companies distributing union members’ paychecks quite literally came to Donald Trump in 2017 to ask that he take it easy on them. Obama-era regulations had made efficiency mandates so strict, that automakers had become convinced they’d be unable to meet them in the years ahead. While Trump’s relationship with the industry often runs hot and cold, he pushed for a fueling rollback that placed federal authorities at odds with California and kicked off a regulatory conflict of epic proportions.

Assuming Biden wins the election, those stringent emissions mandates will undoubtedly come back into play  surrounded on all sides by his climate and environmental justice proposal, which makes a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years. While automotive exclusives are hesitant to share their regulatory fears with the general public, especially as they attempt to put on the greenest face possible for marketing purposes, there are real concerns that the U.S. could embrace policies similar to Europe. That could force a change of course for a few companies and complicate the overall trajectory for the U.S. market.

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By on October 20, 2020

Toyota Test Drive Track at NYIAS, Image: Twitter by New York International Auto Show

After numerous postponements led up to a cancellation in 2020, the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) is coming back for 2021  four months later than planned. On Tuesday, organizers announced that the event would be delayed until August to take advantage of planned expansions at the Javits Center providing additional room for vendors and guests.

Scheduling during the summer also gives it the best possible chance of existing for 2021. Many are worried New York City will reenact strict health protocols over the winter that could easily stretch into April, when NYIAS normally takes place. Depending upon how strict those mandates are, any sizable indoor event could be dubbed illegal by city officials.

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By on October 14, 2020

Canada’s preferred choice in unions, Unifor, warned that contract negotiations with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles were progressing slower than anticipated over the weekend. By Wednesday, news of a strike had begun brewing over social media. Local 444 was issuing FCA-WAP bargaining updates on Twitter and Facebook that included marching orders in the event that the day’s discussions didn’t end in a handshake.

“To ensure we are prepared for a strike, or strike coordinators have been working to finalize the details needed in order to begin, if and when necessary,” the union wrote to members. “If a tentative agreement is reached by 11:59pm October 14th, without an extension in place, then Local 444 along with brothers and sisters across the country at all FCA facilities will be on strike. As the talks continue late into the night, any updates will be posted to our social media pages and web page.”

That scenario is looking increasingly likely, especially as Unifor has explained there was little progress to report all afternoon. It also opened this week suggesting contract talks were “not quite where we feel [they] should be with this limited amount of time left on the clock.”

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By on October 12, 2020

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has decided to go digital to combat the coronavirus pandemic, canceling plans for what would have been an in-person event held at the end of January. Plans now include a virtual, mid-week conference starting on February 9th, which organizers agree will be far better than a bunch of people enjoying themselves at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans over a long weekend.

Truth be told, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made. New Orleans may have decided it’s ready to open up restaurants, retail outlets, and giant shopping centers to the public but trade shows and bars have proven themselves bridge too far. While locals have accused the city of using COVID-19 as an excuse to gentrify certain areas of the city, drunks have a penchant for forgetting social-distancing rules. NADA would have brought in thousands of dealers and vendors, many of whom would be engaged in frequent bouts of close-range talking between beers. That’s to say nothing of the forbidden romantic entanglements (cheating) your author is just going to assume happens.

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By on October 9, 2020

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With so many individuals still working remotely to combat The Dreaded Coronavirus™ from spreading, there have to be thousands of pools on when employees will finally be allowed to return to their cobweb-filled offices. But they have to be getting pretty boring because its hard to imagine anybody confidently putting their money down on late 2021 when this whole thing started in February and the press still thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. The narrative has definitely changed since then and continued social distancing has become a popular solution among businesses, even as state-sanctioned lockdown protocols decline after a few were ruled to be unconstitutional.

On Thursday, Ford decided to keep most of its salaried employees at home until at least June of 2021. That’s eight more months of not going into the office and matches the timetable General Motors issued a few weeks ago.

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By on October 1, 2020

Dennis Williams, the former president of the United Auto Workers, pleaded guilty to embezzling union funds on Wednesday. His copping to the conspiracy charge comes after his successor, Gary Jones, similarly pleaded guilty to misappropriating more than $1.5 million from the UAW in June. They’re joined by numerous co-conspirators that have been caught in a gigantic federal probe hoping to address union corruption and appears to have hit pay dirt.

Appearing by video in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, Williams entered his plea and apologized about the current state of the UAW. “I want to close by apologizing to this court, to my family and to each and every hard-working member paying dues,” he said. “I hope by accepting responsibility for my actions and for my failures, this process might help restore the faith in our union.” (Read More…)

By on September 16, 2020

General Motors refuses to let the dismissal of its federal racketeering case against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stand in the way of getting what it believes is true justice. On Monday, the automaker filed its latest claim with Wayne County Circuit Court in Michigan. These are separate from the New Jersey lawsuit it has targeting former board member and ex-UAW vice president Joe Ashton, who GM has accused of being a hired mole. However, Ashton was named in the trio of new court filings, along with Alphons Iacobelli  the man who pled guilty to embezzling union funds and kicked off a gigantic federal corruption investigation into the UAW.

The automaker also named some of the banks it claimed were involved in the union scandal and continues to allege that FCA “provided millions of dollars to co-conspirators via numerous undisclosed offshore bank accounts and utilized such accounts to purchase the support and silence of numerous high-level UAW officers and FCA executives.” Fiat Chrysler’s assumed goal? Forcing General Motors into a merger or destroy it if the merger failed by negotiating favorable terms with the union and encouraging leadership into adopting positions that would harm GM.

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By on September 10, 2020

Germany’s Schaeffler AG will reportedly be eliminating 4,400 jobs and abandoning several facilities in its home country as the supplier confronts what it dubbed complications relating to the global pandemic. Like Continental, which is actually controlled by the same people, Schaeffler has been coping with lessened demand after automakers around the globe shut down earlier this year as a precautionary measure. While the coronavirus lockdowns can’t be faulted for every issue the companies are facing, they have been a thorn in the side of parts suppliers everywhere.

Continental announced it would need to eliminate roughly 13 percent of its workforce last week. That’s roughly 30,000 fewer jobs. Schaeffler’s restructuring plan only calls for eliminating 4,000 positions. However, it is the smaller of the two and has decided to spread its cuts out as much as possible.

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By on September 4, 2020

The Global Alliance for Vehicle Data Access (GAVDA) has issued a letter to automotive manufacturers around the world to request consumers be given direct access to the data generated by the vehicles they drive. While the group is comprised of organizations representing rental agencies, car sharing, independent vehicle repair shops that also want access to the information, it’s likewise backed by several consumer advocacy groups that worry customers and small businesses are being taken advantage of.

At the core of the letter is a refutation of claims made in a June 3rd memo the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) sent to Congress. That group is an assemblage of the world’s largest industry players with an aim to monetize driving data as quickly as possible. It just so happens that the duo are diametrically opposed to how the government should handle user information. (Read More…)

By on September 2, 2020

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Barely a full day after news broke that Ford was on the cusp of announcing layoffs, Ford announced those layoffs. On Wednesday, the automaker informed employees that it needs to eliminate 1,400 salaried jobs as part of its $11-billion restructuring program. The good news is that these cuts will be handled through retirement buyouts that won’t leave the departing workforce empty handed. The automaker’s internal memo also stated that the buyouts would be voluntary.

The Blue Oval previously said it expects a full-year loss in 2020 thanks to the pandemic, with a pre-tax profit of anywhere between $500 million and $1.5 billion in the third quarter. (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2020

Electric vehicle manufacturers are already struggling to maintain supply lines as demand for batteries increases in practically every industry in existence. Automakers have recently begun branching out to secure the raw materials necessary for their production while also trying to cozy up to battery suppliers who already know they have them over a barrel. Some, like Tesla, have even built their own facilities for battery production.

In August, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the automaker would offer favorable deals to companies that could mine nickel in an ecologically friendly manner and help ensure it has an adequate supply of the metal for batteries. But there’s a problem: pretty much every automaker wants access to nickel and — much like cobalt  there are often serious implications regarding how it’s procured. As demand continues to grow, industry players will become increasingly reliant on regions lacking rigid environmental safeguards. (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2020

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With a large number of automakers pinching pennies these days, it’s easy for the details of various restructuring plans to fall down the memory hole. For example, Ford has been engaged in an ambitious cost-cutting program since 2018. The $11-billion plan was said to take anywhere from three to five years to complete, requiring legitimate sacrifices at the company — including the discontinuation of all sedans in the United States, ending operations in Russia, closing facilities in Europe, and rolling layoffs around the globe.

Ford has actually accelerated its timeline to see how much it can get done before 2021, resulting in the elimination of 7,000 salaried positions globally last year. The company has decided to end another 1,000 salaried positions in the United States. (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2020

Keen to sweep as much attention away from the 2020 Democratic National Convention as possible, President Donald Trump campaigned in Old Forge, PA while Joe Biden accepted the Democratic nomination at a largely virtual event. You’ll be forgiven for not having watched either, as both amounted to little more than bashing the opposing side with nary a hint of actual policy. But Trump came the closest to offering something truly substantive, reiterating threats to companies to bring factory jobs back to the U.S. or suffer the consequences.

The president insisted that manufacturers would soon find themselves in a situation that benefits America whether they complied or not. “We will give tax credits to companies to bring jobs back to America, and if they don’t do it, we will put tariffs on those companies, and they will have to pay us a lot of money,” Trump said during the event. (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2020

Car dealerships around the nation are reportedly having trouble restocking inventories following the prolonged production shutdowns enacted in response to the pandemic. Despite supply chain issues subsiding a bit, Cox Automotive reported the industry only has a 62-day supply of vehicles. That’s approximately 2.3 million sparkly new units, and would be more than enough to keep consumers happy if people didn’t care which model they drove home. Demand may still be suppressed, but the selective nature of shoppers is not.

For example, you may be able to find a Nissan Rogue (the brand’s biggest seller) without much hassle. But finding one equipped how you wanted may be outside the realm of possibility in 2020, depending upon where you live and the fickle winds of fate. And you could apply that same logic to any number of brands, as most continue to note that some suppliers and assembly lines occasionally have to shut down to comply with health mandates. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2020

General Motors said it plans to share some of the safety technology it developed as a countermeasure to the coronavirus pandemic this week. These include a thermal scanning kiosk that uses infrared imaging to take temperatures of people as they stream into facilities, as well as a touchless printer app designed to keep staff from repeatedly touching the control panel. However, it’s the third item, GM’s contact-tracing software, that’s the most novel and controversial.

Practically every company in the world is working on ways to better track people, and their efforts have only accelerated during the pandemic. The presumption here is that by knowing every person someone has come into contact with, you can effectively track the progress of a virus. Despite sounding terrifyingly dystopian just a few years earlier, the notion has become a favorite among tech giants  most of whom are working on their own version.

GM’s involves a wristband, integrated into iOS and Android devices, that keeps tabs on how close employees are to each other. The company has since added support for Bluetooth beacons.

“We believe our application advances the state of the art when it comes to mobile apps for contact tracing, which is the subject of massive software development efforts across multiple industries today,” Tony Bolton, GM’s chief information officer of Global Telecommunications and End-User Services, said in a release. (Read More…)

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